UK regulator to probe Apple’s ‘anti-competitive’ app store

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced on Thursday (4 March), that an investigation would be conducted into the App store. [EPA-EFE/WU HONG]

US tech giant Apple’s allegedly ‘unfair’ terms and conditions for developers using the company’s App store are set to come under the microscope of the UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

CMA announced on Thursday (4 March) that an investigation would be conducted into the App store after developers filed a series of complaints, claiming that in order to offer certain ‘in-app’ features, they are obliged to use Apple’s payment system, which charges a commission of up to 30% on transactions made within the app.

The UK probe into these conditions mirrors an earlier investigation launched by EU antitrust regulators in Brussels last year.

“Complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny,” said a statement from Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA.

Apple has not responded to EURACTIV’s request for a response at the time of writing this article.

Before the close of last year, the CMA issued advice to the UK government on the establishment of a new competition regime for digital markets, which would seek to establish news rules ‘ ‘strategic market status’ (SMS).

The moves are being pursued in parallel with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which the European Commission also proposed in December.

As part of the UK’s new regulatory environment for digital markets, a ‘Digital Markets Unit’ (DMU) will be established to monitor compliance with the rules. It will cover various aspects of the online economy including interoperability requirements, better consumer control over data, enhanced merger rules, and a code of conduct to govern the behaviour of powerful digital firms.

EU's Vestager warns Apple to treat all apps equally amid privacy dispute

Europe’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has warned Apple Inc to give equal treatment to all apps on its platform amid the iPhone maker’s privacy changes that have drawn charges of anti-competitive practices from rival Facebook.

EU probes into Apple

In Brussels, the European Commission opened two investigations into Apple last year to identify whether the US tech giant has closed out rivals and imposed unfair conditions on developers using the App store.

For their part, Apple has recently become embroiled in a spat with social media giant Facebook over the former’s intentions in the near future to introduce bolstered privacy protocols, by asking iPhone users for consent to track their data for personalized ads.

Facebook has called the move ‘anticompetitive,’ saying that Apple’s own personalised ad platform would be exempt from the new rules.

The episode recently caught the attention of the EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, who warned that Apple’s move may transform into a competition issue if it is found that not all apps are being treated fairly on Apple devices.

The UK’s CMA has said that they will continue to monitor ongoing Apple probes in Brussels and coordinate with the European Commission as part of their upcoming investigations into Apple’s app store.

Brussels launches investigation against Apple for abusive practices

The European Commission opened two parallel investigations into Apple on Tuesday (16 June) to see whether the US tech giant has excluded rivals and imposed unfair conditions on ‘app’ developers via its Apple Store and its payment service Apple Pay.

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